My political awards of 2016

It's tempting to move on from 2016 as soon as possible. But before we do, let's hand out the awards for the best political moments of the year.

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As the year ends, the temptation is to flush it down the lavatory of your mind without so much as a backward glance. But imagine: what if those who forget 2016 are condemned to repeat it? The horror. So, instead, let’s remind ourselves of those politicians who have made particularly large contributions to public life with our end-of-year awards.

Brexiteer of the Year On daytime TV, dodgy finance companies promise to consolidate all your loans into one easy monthly payment. The Tory MEP Daniel Hannan has performed the same function for my previously nebulous irritation over Brexit.

During the referendum campaign, he told the British people: “I want you to sack me.” They voted to do so. And yet he’s still in his £85,000-a-year job. As the multilingual Hannan might say: “Que?

Mystery of the Year Chris Grayling, in effect, destroyed the probation service and he is now in trouble as Transport Secretary. This summer, he ran Theresa May’s Tory leadership campaign. How did she win?

The Ken Livingstone Gold Award for Saying “Hitler” Winner: Ken Livingstone. Second place: Hitler. (Sorry, just getting into the spirit of it. Second place is also Ken Livingstone.)

The “Joke’s Over Now, Guys” Prize for Sense of Humour Failure In May, Boris Johnson won a poetry competition designed to poke fun at the Turkish president, side-splittingly rhyming “Ankara” with “wankerer”. Then, after Theresa May got laughs by comparing her Foreign Secretary to an unruly dog that might need to be put down, stories began to appear about how beastly and undermining it was for a politician to be mocked and every­one should bally well knock it off. What could possibly have changed?

Resignation of the Year No, not a bleary-eyed David Cameron waving goodbye outside 10 Downing Street to spend more time with the after-dinner circuit. The exit of the year has to be that of Iain Duncan Smith, who quit as work and pensions secretary in March. On which note . . .

The Dame Edith Evans Memorial Award for Ostentatious Pearl-Clutching Duncan Smith again, for being shocked – shocked! – to discover that Universal Credit was being used as an excuse to cut the benefits bill. Did the people of Easterhouse in Glasgow make small talk with him in vain?

The You Can’t Talk About Immigration These Days Award for Talking About Immi­gration A clear winner here. On 8 December, Nigel Farage made his 31st appearance on Question Time in a decade. If this is the vicious repression of free speech by the metropolitan elites who run the BBC, frankly it’s not working very well.

The Distinguished Service Order for Hashtag Warfare This one goes to Nicholas Soames, who has taken to Twitter like a slightly gouty duck to water. The lack of capital letters gives his hashtags a gnomic quality, requiring careful attention to decipher them. For example, a recent tweet urging Boris Johnson to get on with EU negotiations ended with “#bigcardstoplayleademout”.

Prediction of the Year The fugitive and embassy-cupboard botherer Julian Assange on the US election: “My analysis is that Trump would not be permitted to win.”

Historian of the Year The Ukip mega-­donor Arron Banks, fresh from arguing with Professor Mary Beard about the fall of the Roman empire (he thinks that it was caused by uncontrolled immigration), decided to assert that Russia was less imperialist than the US because it had not invaded Afghanistan. A groundbreaking TV show – Arron’s Alternate Realities – surely awaits.

The Have You Had Your Tea, Dear Award for Unhelpful Assistance At every public appearance with the Labour leader, the newly ennobled Shami Chakrabarti seems intent on treating Corbyn as a doddery old codger. Perhaps in 2017, she will spend shadow cabinet meetings TALKING VERY LOUDLY to him. Come on, he’s only 67 – almost too young to run for the US presidency.

The Basilisk Award for Best Thousand-Yard Stare An honourable mention here to the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, who stood behind Donald Trump with the look of Faust on seeing the devil come to collect on his bargain. But there could only be one winner: Tom Watson, who sits beside his leader with the look of a raw recruit determined not to react to a sergeant major’s hazing. At some PMQs, you’d have sworn that he had even stopped blinking.

The Bodyform for You Award for Graphic Design With its garish pink colour scheme and a cursive “Angela”, the launch poster for Angela Eagle’s abortive leadership bid looked like an aspirational product from the “feminine care” aisle at Boots.

The Your Friend’s Experimental Theatre Piece at the Edinburgh Fringe That Just Turns Out to Be a Naked Person Hitting a Gong for 30 Minutes Award for Tolerating Extreme Boredom Let us salute the Scottish National Party. Its MPs turn up to debates in the Commons like clockwork and they never say a word against Nicola Sturgeon. Even Mhairi Black, who once seemed like a great firebrand in the making, is only brought out for special occasions, like your nan’s best porcelain. It must be fearsomely dull to be so strait-laced.

Best Audition for a Successor to The Cook Report John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, provided a surreal coda to the anti-Semitism row as he chased Ken Livingstone outside the BBC’s Millbank studio, castigating him about Hitler. Telly types: need someone to berate the disappearing backs of dodgy double-glazing salesmen? Look no further.

The Best Way to Troll Brexiteers, If I Do Say So Myself Award When they say that having a second referendum on Europe would be “questioning the will of the people”, point out that – um, actually – it would be a third referendum. It’s a guaranteed monocle-popper.

Helen Lewis is associate editor of the New Statesman. She regularly appears on BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and the News Quiz, and is writing a history of feminism for Jonathan Cape

This article appears in the 15 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2016